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Disciplines & Themes 

  • Medicine
  • Clinical skills assessment

Learning focus:  

  • Competency assessment
  • Clinical assessment

Design focus:

  • PebblePad Workbooks
  • App-based learning
  • External assessment

University of Birmingham - College of Med and Dental Sciences Logo


Supporting Students On And Off Campus - From Paper To Digital

The University of Birmingham is now the fourth largest university in the UK and was ranked inside the top 100 universities worldwide in 2020. Renowned for its reputation for innovation and research, the university's strategic vision for Personal Academic Tutoring is testament to that reputation, with all 35,000 students regularly accessing PebblePad's Learning Journey Platform to record and reflect on meetings with their academic tutors. In this project, PebblePad helped the Medical School replace a paper-based records system with an electronic skills capture 'passport' to be used in clinical settings.

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Medical Student using PebblePad

The aim was to identify a tool for students that was accessible, both offline and online, and that students could use on their mobile devices to record their activities.



The 'Capturing Medical Skills' Ambition 

Students in the undergraduate medicine programme are required to record their clinical skills from year 3 – 5. The aim of this project was to replace a paper-based records system supported by a legacy database, with opportunity to innovate in the area of electronic skills capture for medical schools. This presented an excellent opportunity for the Birmingham Medical School to explore, develop and work in collaboration with PebblePad to design and develop a digital passport which met the specific requirements of the University of Birmingham curriculum.


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The existing process was cumbersome, with students and staff needing to transfer paper records into a database. It was also open to risk - the data was reliant upon student entry and the paper passports had to survive being taken into clinical placement on a daily basis or the full three clinical years.

The Successful Workflow

Working in partnership with PebblePad, the Birmingham Higher Education Futures Institute (HEFi) Digital team identified several tools in the platform that would meet the requirements of capturing procedural skills sign off, and be effective as a tool for students that was accessible both offline and online, and that students could use on their mobile devices to record their activities. The HEFi Digital team were also keen to take on PebblePad as an institutionally supported digital platform to minimise ongoing development and sustainability costs.

A PebblePad workbook was created, utilising PebblePad’s powerful Collections functionality. Collections search for items that are identified by criteria and aggregate them. Each clinical skill was matched to a form completed through PebblePocket - the PebblePad app that allows students to collect evidence and achieve sign-off even when not online. A tag attached to each form matched the criteria the Collection searched for, resulting in a list of signed-off skill forms automatically populating within each Collection in the workbook. The data could then be sourced via reports to indicate how many skills each student had completed.  

PebblePad Medical Education Workbook - University of BirminghamThe example here shows a PebblePad workbook, a custom template and the PebblePad app, PebblePocket.


Recent Developments

  • Birmingham have been working in partnership with PebblePad on the development of this resource and subsequent iterations over the last three years. We are continually reviewing the design and are now exploring Capabilities 2 functionality as a further iteration to improve the student experience of engaging with the resource.

  • In response to the Covid-19 Pandemic, we have also added summative assessment to the design and content of the resource.

  • The resource has been further developed to meet the requirements for our MSc Physician’s Associate Programmes and is in use by over 1200 students each academic year in Birmingham Medical School.


The PebblePad Difference

The PebblePad workbook shows each student's progress in clinical skills and helps to showcase the skill levels they have achieved to clinical staff during their study and for professional portfolio requirements. The pilot group of students were empowered to be trail blazers in terms of introducing innovative approaches to what was previously a very ‘old school’ process. A full evaluation resulted in an agreement to roll out the resource across all clinical years in readiness for the following academic year (2020/21), when there will be approximately 1200 medical students using the electronic clinical skills passport.

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We believe this is a great demonstration of enhanced use of digital tools that meets student expectations.  The concept of this project could be incorporated into a number of areas of the university where skills capture requirements need to be evidenced.


PebblePad has helped the University of Birmingham Medical School to ...

  • Track live student engagement and completion, so any possible performance or wellbeing risks can be highlighted early

  • Improve our processes in clinical environments where offline functionality supports digital sign-off for observations

  • Support students in maintaining a secure, digital resource to prevent loss of critical data

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